1620s, from French accolade (16c.), from Provençal acolada or Italian accollata, ultimately from noun use of a fem. past participle from Vulgar Latin *accollare "to embrace around the neck," from Latin ad- "to" (see ad-) + collum "neck" (see collar (n.)).
The original sense is of an embrace about the neck or the tapping of a sword on the shoulders to confer knighthood. Extended meaning "praise, award" is from 1852. Also see -ade. Earlier was accoll (mid-14c.), from Old French acolee "an embrace, kiss, especially that given to a new-made knight," from verb acoler. The French noun in the 16c. was transformed to accolade, with the foreign suffix.